Pubdate: Sun, 07 Aug 2016
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Joe Mathews, writes the Connecting California column for 
Zocalo Public Square


California tokers, why are you trippin' so hard?

You keep saying that marijuana helps manage anxiety. But those of you 
who work in or partake of the cannabis industry sound like the most 
stressed-out people in California.

And that leaves me wondering what's in your bongs, especially since 
2016 is supposed to be a year of great triumph for you. Cannabis is 
booming in California. New regulations on medical marijuana are 
coming together, and a November ballot initiative to legalize 
recreational use seems likely to pass. California is thus well on its 
way to becoming Mary Jane's global capital, and a national model for 
how to pull cannabis out of the black market shadows and into the legal light.

So if the future looks so dank (that's stoner-speak for awesome), why 
do you all look so wrecked?

Did you get some bad schwag or something?

In talking to some of you in recent weeks, I've learned there are two 
reasons why you're stressed out.

The first involves all the necessary pressure you're putting on 
yourselves. Cannabis is not just an industry, it's a movement to end 
prohibition, and the hardest times for movements can come right when 
they are on the verge of winning what they want. Your movement's 
victory - the end of cannabis prohibition - requires a difficult 
transition that is stressful and scary.

In California, by one estimate, there are as many as 10,000 
cannabis-related businesses - only a couple hundred of which have the 
proper zoning and licenses to operate a medical marijuana business. 
That leaves thousands of you trying to work out your futures very 
quickly - at least before 2018, when regulations for medical 
marijuana (including a state marijuana czar) and for recreational use 
(assuming the ballot initiative passes) are supposed to be in place.

Some of you may choose to shut down. But others of you are engulfed 
in the difficult, expensive process of making your businesses legal 
quickly - but not so quickly that you run afoul of local police who 
are still conducting raids on your operations or federal authorities 
who already making banking and paying taxes so difficult for you.

On top of all this stress comes the burden of being a political 
cause. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is trying to build a gubernatorial 
campaign by backing the ballot initiative to legalize recreational use.

That brings me to the second source of pressure on you: the constant 
outside demands on your industry from those of us in what cinematic 
stoner Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski called "the Square Community."

California leaders have gotten way too high on the possibilities of 
fully legal marijuana. Today politicians and media claim that legal 
cannabis in California will end the drug war, rationalize our prison 
and court systems, create new jobs and economic opportunities in 
poorer and rural areas of the state, save agricultural businesses and 
lands, and replenish strained local and state budgets with new taxes on weed.

Los Angeles County recently debated a plan to address its 
homelessness crisis with a marijuana tax. Environmentalists have been 
touting how marijuana farming can pioneer water-saving practices to 
mitigate the state drought. No small number of entertainers - among 
them Snoop Dogg, the wizard of "weed wellness," and Tommy Chong, the 
"godfather of ganja" - seem to think that by licensing their names to 
marijuana products, they can replace some of the revenue show 
business used to provide.

Cannabis has come to be seen by its most zealous champions as a 
substance that can alter California realities - in ways reminiscent 
of our craze for gold in 1849 or for oil in the early 20th century. 
That is an awful lot of expectation riding on this one plant.

Before exploiting legal marijuana for their own schemes, California 
governments need to get this transition right. The tax system for 
cannabis should be comprehensible and not so extortionate that it 
drives out small players (or creates incentives to keep the black 
market alive).

The regulatory regimes for medical marijuana and recreational use 
should fit together, and be transparent enough that California 
cannabis goes forward as a competitive market, not a state monopoly. 
To ease the transition, state government needs to do everything it 
can to help you - the growers, processors, dispensary operators and 
customers - negotiate these changes, including protecting you from the feds.

If California gets this right, maybe some of the biggest dreams for 
marijuana can come true. At the very least, cannabis could be a 
thriving and well-regulated industry.

But for now, as the marijuana-friendly rap group Cypress Hill like to 
say, we all gots to chill. These are stressful enough times for stoners already.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom